A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
By Eric Graham
Updated: March 23, 2014
Gary Norris Gray- BASN Staff Reporter
Hollywood reminds Black people that we are still N****rs with their recent track record of The Oscar Awards. For every step forward, we go two steps back.
From 1964 through 1970 many Blacks stayed away from movie theaters because nobody looked like them on the screen. Most Black characters were either children or seniors. What happen to the middle aged? When a Black face did appear he was a minstrel, a clown, or a complete buffoon, a loser. In war movies or disaster flicks the token Black character died first.
However, if the movie role was a positive one, the Black character had to be in sports, comedy, or in the entertainment field; forget about Black intellectuals, politicians or leadership roles.
As for me, I first noticed this phenomenon with the 1964 movie The Long Ships with Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier. This classic battle between the Vikings and the Moors intrigued me.
Why? Being a young African American male I identified immediately with the army of color, The Moors. They looked like me, my dad, my uncles. Finally, I saw black men in power. Confident Black men who were not afraid to go for what they wanted and could freely exercise their rights to do so. So, of course I wanted the Moors to win and get the trophy, the Golden Bell. It did not happen; the Vikings and Widmark got the Golden Bell near the pillar of Hercules. At 11 years old, my heart was crushed and I never looked at movies the same again..
The message from the Movie Academy was clear: “A Black man could never beat a white man in the 1960′s.”
Black youth did not have a Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or The Green Hornet who looked like them as their super heroes.
Our heroes were real; our heroes were alive: The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.(Civil Rights Leader), Rosa Parks(Birmingham Bus Boycott), Jackie Robinson(Los Angeles Dodgers), Bill Russell (Boston Celtics), Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns), Willie O’Ree Boston Bruins), and now President Barack Obama!
But I digress, Movie Executives sought to “fix” our hero problem in 1969 with Black-Exploitation movies like Super Fly, Shaft, Cleopatra Jones, Foxy Brown, Coffy, Blacula, Black Belt Jones, Boss Nigger, Across 110th Street, and Sheba Baby. Fortunately, this did not last long and by 1976 that genre ended.
Nonetheless, the cycle seems to have re-emerged since 2010 with a different style and a different format but the same message.
Perhaps the Academy has presented “Black life” the way Caucasians or White Americans wanted African Americans to be, with non-threatening, childlike personalities and character traits.
Like “Radio” played by Cuba Gooding Jr. about a young man with a mental disability, “Coming to America”, or any Tyler Perry Movie example Big Mama, REALLY?
Actually, we’re just in the latest cycle of this sad phenomenon. The social and political agenda started with the very first Black Oscar winner, Best Supporting Actress, Hattie McDaniel, for her role as a maid in “Gone with the Wind” (1939). She won because she bugged out her eyes, played the buffoon and said “yes sir” and “yes ma’am.” Ms. McDaniel stated later that she regretted doing the role but wanted Americans to never forget.
The industry continued to produce movies to the point of ridiculous, guess who got to play the roles of African and Arabic queens and kings? For example, Queen Cleopatra, the beautiful and famous “Queen of the Nile” was portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor. A beauty in her own right with her natural black curls, Ms. Taylor, with her pale skin was far from black or brown.
Not an authentic look for the real Cleopatra who came from Greece with the mixed heritage of Persia (Iran).
Nope, not even close!
Next, there was the Queen Sheba the beautiful and intellectual leader, whose skin tone, was Black as night.
She defeated the Persian Empire and was a superior military strategist.
Today, the military uses her pincher flank moves when attacking the enemy.
In fact The United States used that same move in the war with Iraq ten years ago. Sheba was portrayed in this a movie by Italian actress Lougina “Gina” Lollobridgida. ???
Then there was the strong, strapping, male stallion, Charleston Heston, playing Moses in The Ten Commandments. REALLY? The man who was born in Egypt and raised there – in Africa for 40 years before fleeing to the Middle East? And don’t get me started with the way The Son of God, Jesus is and was portrayed on screen by a Portuguese actor.
Hmm, when did Portugal land in Israel?
But the “inaccuracies” don’t end there.
Remember Moses had a speech disability but that won’t be in the movie either.
Not sexy enough, I guess.
To review, if logic follows Jesus, Queen Cleopatra, Queen Sheba, and Moses were all born on or near the African continent in the Middle East region; therefore logic would dictate that all three individuals would be of darker hue. But don’t let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.
”WE MUST TELL OUR OWN STORIES”.
Want further evidence that the industry takes one step forward and then two steps back? “Fruitvale Station” and “Red Tails”are two movies about how African American men made strides to reach their dreams, straighten out their lives and serve American society in the process.
The Movie Academy ignored these movies.
The question should be asked WHY?
Sidney Poitier should have won an Oscar for his role in the 1958 “Defiant One” instead, he won five years later with “Lilies of the Field”-1963. With this, the Academy sent a quiet message to all Black actors, “this is what we are looking for. We want Black folk to help white people.”
Black leadership in movies are few and far between. Louis Gossett Jr. played the role of the salty Marine Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 release of “An Officer and a Gentleman.
Leading his troops to be leaders in the navy and making a candidate see the errors of his ways. But of course, he was overlooked.
Then there was writer, director, producer Spike Lee, and the Academy-Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in the outstanding movie, Malcolm X.
They were snubbed there too. Not to mention Washington’s other forgotten, starring roles in Remember the Titian’s, The Hurricane, and Cry Freedom.
The Academy further rewards and reinforces negative images by nodding to Mr. Washington for playing a freed slave Glory and a murderous, corrupt, cop in Training Day.
Hey, at least they are consistent. Halle Berry, who was overlooked in Losing Isaiah and The Dorothy Dandridge Story.
Berry earned her golden statue for playing a W***E in Monster’s Ball. Then there was “Show Me The Money!” Cuba Gooding Jr. in,” Jerry McGuire”, and Whoopie Goldberg flashing those pearly whites to get her trophy in the film, “Ghost”.
Now, the latest, the beautiful and talented Miss Lupita Nyongo’s crown this month for “12 Years a Slave” in which she played an internally defiant slave who was raped repeatedly by her master and ordered to be whipped just short of death by the same. The message is very clear.
The movie industry continues the subliminal reinforcement of the status quo with the political and social agenda of the United States demonizing African America men and women.
The academy push movies like
“The Color Purple, Driving Ms. Daisy, Flight, Training Day, Monsters Ball, The Help, Precious, The Butler, and this year, 12 Years A Slave”, movies that subjugate people of color.
The question AGAIN should be asked WHY?
Hope Americans go see the 2014 Christmas release of the movie “Annie?” “What new Annie movie? you ask?” My point exactly, it’s another remake with young (Quvenzhane Wallis), this very talented African American girl has created a fire storm from those in the industry who bothered to sit it.
A Black Annie!?! America cannot wrap its mind around the visual. and has attacked little Ms. Wallis, last year’s Oscar rising star, AGAIN, not for her singing, not for her acting, but because of the color of her skin. This is not the first time Ms. Wallis has been attacked, at the Academy Awards Show last year a well known Internet paper called “The Onion” and one of their reporters STILL TO BE IDENTIFIED (one year later) thought it was funny to call her the Nasty C-Word. Stating the following that Ms. Wallis was “A cute little cunt”.
What kind of mentality does one have to go so low as to call a child this name and then hide behind the paper? (see link)
Joking or not this is still America’s attitude of about race issues..
Unbelievable that people are horrified about a “beloved” young theatrical character being played by a black child.
To remedy this situation the movie industry might want to hire more African Americans as producers, directors, and writers. Hire more people of color to create positive stories about minorities in the United States.
People of color and elders want to set the story straight. It is the Movie industry’s responsibility to do so, but knowing what we know we are just whistling DIXIE in the wind.
As my friend from WCLM, Cowboy Reggie Howell, states, “I digress.”
Yes, no matter how you spell it or portray it a N****r is still N****r and Hollywood reminds us every year.
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove on Blogtalkradio.com, Disabled Community Activist. Email at email@example.com
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